CHAMPCAR/CART: Motegi to Long Beach - A Car Change

First you strip it naked.Then you alter its brain... OK, you've rolled into Long Beach with fresh jet lag from Motegi and you have two days to transform your sleek and aerodynamically sophisticated super speedway racer into a kickass street ...

First you strip it naked.Then you alter its brain...

OK, you've rolled into Long Beach with fresh jet lag from Motegi and you have two days to transform your sleek and aerodynamically sophisticated super speedway racer into a kickass street fighter. How do you do it? Simple. Change everything.

Because taking a Champ Car from the foggy mountains of Motegi to the hot Beach means more than just changing the gears. You're looking for a fundamental change in personality. So when the cars hit the ground at Long Beach the mechanics will attack them, pulling off everything until the tub's stripped naked.

Here's the mechanic's checklist: Change the springs from the super stiff low compliance speedway tooth rattlers to the relatively soft pothole thumpers to help get the power down coming off the slow corners. But not too soft, the cars will still be going 190 down the back straight at Long Beach. On the speedway everything is biased left because you only turn left. So change the whole suspension to be symmetrical so you can turn right with equal ease. Change the suspension links. Change the upper and lower A arms to shorten the wheelbase so the car's more nimble. Change the hub carriers. Change the rear drive from a solid axle "spool" to a diff. Ovals are the only place CART allows carbon fiber brake rotors. It's a safety measure for those unexpected, troubling times when you have to suddenly slow from 225+. So while you change the hubs, change the rotors to cast iron as the rules direct.

Team Rahal, and Marlboro Team Penske both make their own shocks so they especially won't tell you how they open up the internal valving, lengthen the stroke, and exchange the internal bump stops for a more compliant material as they say in England. Change the under tray to move the center of pressure further forward to sharpen turn in. In fact, change the whole aero package from minimum to maximum. Throw on those big wide wings front and rear for double the down force of your speedway car. And change the cockpit with some extra padding on the left as well as the right, and raise the steering ratio so your driver can turn real quick when the need arises. And change the fuel cells because the speedway cells have their pickup on the right, and the street cars will want center pickup.

While you are doing that, the Ford, Honda, Mercedes and Toyota techies will be preparing very different engines from their speedway spec. Speedway engines spend most of their lives in the top 25 % of their rev range. While street race engines run up and down all day long. So the techies will completely re-map the engines for more low down grunt. They'll also change the exhaust system for the same reason, more torque.

Change the tires. Firestone and Goodyear's street course tires are black and round like their super speedway cousins, but otherwise totally different from compound to construction. Nowadays Champ Car tires aren't just different for every track they are different on every corner of the car. Change the decals if you were lucky enough to pick up some new sponsors. And take off the ones that changed their mind. And, oh yeah, change the gears.

Source: CART Online

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Series IndyCar
Teams Team Penske